Other Amphibian of the Week

Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis)

Common Name: Hellbender, Snot Otter
Scientific Name: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
Family: Cryptobranchidae
Location: United States – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia
Size: 2.5 feet or 74 inches

The Hellbender is the largest Salamander in North America. There are two subspecies of Hellbenders: Ozark Hellbender (C. a. bishopi) and Eastern Hellbender (C. a. alleganiensis) . Differences between the subspecies are distribution and that the Ozark Hellbender has large spots and a molted chin, while the Eastern has small spots and uniformed color chin.

Hellbenders are mostly aquatic, relying on dissolved oxygen in the water to breath and because of this, they live in fast moving streams. They also like streams with large rocks so they can hide under them. They hide under these rocks during the day and go out at night to eat what they can find, mostly crawfish and fish.

For breeding, Hellbenders use external fertilization which is rare for salamanders. The males creates a spot for the female to lay the eggs and after fertilization, the male defends the eggs. The breeding season is starts in September and October.

Hellbenders are listed as near threatened by the IUCN but many states have them listed as endangered. The Ozark Hellbender is listed as a federally endangered species. Hellbender populations have dropped because of over-harvesting, chytrid fungus, and habitat destruction in the form of damming rivers and pollution from mining.

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